Performance Management Company Blog

Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Apparently, Employees are also People!

I was playing around with some of my flower pics on Saturday, wishing for Spring after weeding, composting and fertilizing the day lily garden. That got me to thinking that we need to do those same things in some workplaces (yeah, weeding, also). And then I thought to put up a flower post

Employee Growth by scott simmerman at The Square Wheels ProjectThen, I got to thinking about that first word and if it might be better if I made it more general and changed it to people, since it also applies to children and it did not have to be a workplace poster. So, I put up a “which one” image of both in Facebook and the resounding response was PEOPLE.

People agree that PEOPLE can grow and that employees are people, too.

People can grow if we help them - from The Square Wheels Project

Now, I wish that more organizations will make that simple realization and behave to better involve and engage them in alignment to goals and objectives and provide them with the feedback and support and teamwork that would allow them to grow and perform at a higher level. The data suggest that people are disengaged and often unmotivated. Extrinsic rewards are not driving high levels of overall performance and interdepartmental collaboration remains an oxymoron.

Supervisors are the fulcrum for changing behavior. HR and T&D simply cannot impact people who are doing the jobs at hand. We must improve supervisory skills and facilitating involvement is straightforward – Ask and Receive. But few supervisors seem to be listening, or even respecting their people based on many different surveys of attitudes and behaviors in the workplace.

Remember that the flower IS in there! (And so is a brain.)
So, give them some sunlight and some good soil and watch what happens!

Poster by Scott Simmerman of The Square Wheels Project

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

The Square Wheels Project is an LMS designed to teach facilitation skills to supervisors, using the Square Wheels metaphor for organizational performance improvement. The theme is simple, Square Wheels describe how most organizations and most processes really work and the Round Wheels already exist, in that the people at the back have the hands-on experience with moving forward and know what can be changed and improved. The idea is to enable to conversations, which is what the short course is designed to accomplish.

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

12 Great Strategic Board Games – by Joe Cole (with Scott Simmerman)

Entertainment is as important as work because it keeps your life balanced and in this manner you are able to work in a more effective way. In this modern technological world where we can find everything on our mobile screens – ranging from video games to social media services – sometimes we want to escape from the glittering mobile screens and demand something that is truly different. Most of us cannot even imagine that entertainment also exists outside our mobiles even if we want to play games, and these games are called board games. Board games are interesting and people still play these games because when you play board games, you take some time off from your mobile screens.

Guest blogger Joe Cole and I have collaborated to talk about our collection of what we think are 12 of the best strategic board games for business performance improvement.

Collaboration Journey game icon for teambuilding and Square Wheels

Collaboration Journey – a Square Wheels game

CJ comes in two versions, a simple and a complex one. In Simple CJ (CJ1), tabletops of 3 to 4 people plan a journey forward to collaborate and move through a series of constraints. While there can be a winner, the game is about getting ALL of the teams to move forward efficiently and effectively. Teams use dice to replace their Square Wheels with round ones so their wagons can roll faster. In Complex CJ (CJ2) teams must move their Wagon Pushers on and off wagons in order to gain round wheels in a fairly complex series of events. It is designed to take about 90 minutes to play and debrief.

Innovate & Implement – a Square Wheels Game

Innovate & Implement teambuilding game using Square Wheels

In I&I, teams speed around the game board gaining access to problems and using their resources to solve them. The idea is to collect all four round wheels so that they can implement change in their organizations. Training is an option, and the Trainer and the Manager chase teams around hoping to get them into the training class, while players tend to try to avoid that (just like they do in the workplace!). It is designed to take about 90 minutes to play and debrief. A speedy replay can also be used to demonstrate the effectiveness of practice and learning on quality of performance.

7 Wonders

It is a very interesting and strategic game which is also very easy to play. The game won’t take more than 30 minutes to complete one round, in case you are a busy person. The overall theme and gameplay are very simple, but you will have to learn the rules of the game first which are bit difficult and confusing, but as you play on, the rules become more and more obvious.

Coyote

It is a bluffing game and is very simple. 6 people can play the game at the same time, and one round won’t take longer than ten minutes. The game is based on numbers; each person carries a number on its head, and the only number he can’t see is his own. The game is not as linear as it seems because there are other puzzling cards like negatives, multipliers, and zeroes etc.

Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica is a very difficult and complex game when compared with the other board games, but its difficulty also makes it very interesting. If you have watched the TV series, then there won’t be any difficulty in playing it because the game truly captures the essence of the TV series. The real charm of the game is that it is a cooperative game, and in the game, two or more people aren’t on your side and you don’t know about it until they reveal themselves.

Balderdash

If you have played the game Dixit, then you will know the rules of Balderdash instantly because both games have almost the same rules. The main theme of the game is that one person reads a word from any card aloud, and all the other members are asked to write the mock definitions of the word. The person who has announced the word then reads all the mock definitions aloud including the original one.

Smallworld

This game is all about tactics, if you play tactically you win; the game is as simple as that. All you have to do is get more and more gold on the board by controlling different areas which are mentioned on the board. You can only take different areas under your control only if you have greater army than your opponent. Special abilities, as well as different pairings, also make the game really interesting.

Dominion

It is a very simple and straight game and lacks any complexity whatsoever. Two main things in the game are coins and kingdom cards. You start playing the game if you have both these things. The main theme of the game is to get as many kingdoms as possible.

Agricola

It is a very interesting game with agricultural touch. The main theme of the game is that you own a house and some land as well. You will have to grow different things on the land you possess in order to feed your growing family. What matters most in the game is planning; if you don’t plan properly, your opponent will snatch all your resources.

Atlantis

It is a strategy game which 2-4 players can play at the same time. The main theme of the game is that you have to get off the sinking island of Atlantis. The game is highly imaginative and you can place the card patterns in what way you like.

The Golden City

It is a game for 3 or four players and features many adventures. When you start the game, you play as a settler on an island at the center of which there is a golden city. The primary goal of the game is to get the golden city by establishing a trade. This game can be purchased from Groupon, use Groupon coupon at checkout to save.

Set

The rules of the game are very simple, yet the game is very puzzling. The game is all about pattern recognition and you will have to find different patterns.

 

a team building simulation exercose

Lastly, let me add a short note about our flagship team building exercise, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. You can find plenty of blog posts about it and we note that it is recognized as one of the best teambuilding simulations in the world, based on user comments. Dutchman focuses on collaboration, leadership and alignment and can play with hundreds of people in tabletops of 5-6,

This guest post is written by Joe Cole, he works at Coupon Goo.

Some additional comments were added by me,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

Facilitating Workplace Improvement: Herding Cats and Frogs

A couple of really good discussions on facilitation and implementation of strategies and innovation and some basic conversations about people and performance got me thinking again about The Issues of Workplace Reality:

Getting things done around here
is a lot like herding cats.

It is possible to accomplish that, but with me with an 8-month old uncontrollable and insane kitty and with me working on Robin Speculand’s Compass Model for workplace strategy implementation (and seeing lots of statistics around failures and challenges), I am once again reminded that the metaphor links to many issues of workplace engagement and alignment.

If you have never seen it before or need a refresher, you really ought to watch this great old 1-minute EDS commercial about the satisfaction gained from successfully herding cats:

Herding Cats - EDS Commercial“Herding cats. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy…”
“I’m living a dream…”

Funny stuff, for sure and worth watching!
(Clicking on the image above will open up in Youtube.)

My British friend, Barry Howell, used the phrase “herding frogs,” in a conversation, which got me into expanding my thinking. Not everyone in the workplace is a feline, which of course makes things more difficult to manage, right? Herding frogs seems to be a more common metaphor there, maybe because they aren’t so much into herding cattle as in the US.

So, what does herding frogs look like? Here is a video of The Great Frog Capture in California. Do NOT try this at home!

FrogsMetaphors!! I just love using those kinds of very visual,
kinesthetic phrases to anchor reality.

Then, I saw a link to an absolutely wild short video about stampeding ducks. Seriously. Click on the image and be amazed. And again, do not try herding ducks like this at home or at work!

Stampeding Ducks

Lastly, I thought to add a really beautiful video of sheep herding in New Zealand. This one is awesome! Courtesy of Tom Whittaker:

Herding sheep videoThe only issue that I would have with workplaces is that there would be little innovation and few people doing things differently. You would not have exemplary performers in any real sense. Plus, herding sheep is not workplace reality, for sure!

Trying to implement change and improvement and motivating people is not an easy task, as shown in the above examples. And while ducks will be imprinted to follow an individual or other ducks and sheep are naturally herd animals easily controlled with a few sheep dogs, managing people is simply not so easy. People ARE creative when we allow them to be. People are great problem solvers if they recognize something as an issue. And people need leadership.

There is one more graphic that speaks to getting things done and facilitating improvement and that looks like this:

Baby Elephant Teamwork Quote wordsWe need to have the time and energy, as leaders, to deal with the new baby elephants! We cannot simply add one more thing on top of all the other things and expect it to be given the attention it needs.

Most strategy implementations fail not because of a poor strategy, but because the implementation plan does not prioritize that implementation nor take into account all the time and energy needed to get things to be different. Plus, while it seems easier simply to tell people that they need to do things differently, that behavior generally results in active resistance by many.

We need to develop alignment, teamwork, collaboration and a sense of ownership, along with prioritizing the time and effort required, in order to move people to different performance places.

Cats, frogs, sheep and elephants.
Will Herding Zombies be next?

(Actually, the answer is YES, since my colleagues want me to get my Zombie Strategy Implementation Game into beta so they can mess with it. There do seem to be some Zombies among the very disengaged populations common in most places. Not all have turned, but some seem to have done so!)

Solutions are not simple. But you may find our approach to involving and engaging people for workplace improvement to be pretty straightforward.

We share some simple tools for involving and engaging people for improving workplace performance at The Square Wheels Project.

Using our Square Wheels images and themes and facilitation approach, you can generate alignment to shared missions and visions, ask about issues and opportunities and define strategies to implement and manage change. Check it out!

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

Bad Teambuilding and BaaadTeambuilding

I don’t really think I have to say too much about this and let the image speak for itself. As most of my readers are aware, I do corporate team building and organizational development using business simulations to generate discussions about what can be done differently to improve organizational results. Most of my work comes from focusing on collaboration rather than competition and doing things that offer the possibilities of measuring actuals against possibles to discuss alternatives.

If you search “Dutchman” within my blog, you can find dozens of articles about how to improve RESULTS and how to avoid doing things that are possibly team bonding rather than team building. (Here is a short compendium of related team building articles)

We also have twitter threads on #badteambuilding and #baaadteambuilding where a few of us try to illustrate some of the really awful ideas. I use examples of go-kart racing or firewalking or paintball as the kinds of things that offer little real measurable impacts and I will often ask purveyors of such events to share how they think those activities actually accomplish their stated purpose of team BUILDING.

Anyway, I guess my email is out there related to the teambuilding keyword and I was smacked in the head earlier today with this offer for “InflatablesUSA PonyHops for Team Building Events” along with their image of young adults apparently doing teambuilding. I am not going to ask them about their implementation and debriefing design and I am left wondering how they will then discuss issues of collaboration or leadership development or similar.

pony-hop-boy-scoutimage from unsolicited email to me from marketing department

I am NOT against having more fun in the workplace. And I am not about hoping that InflatablesUSA can make a lot of money from these “Pony Hops.”

But I do question the kinds of expensive initiatives suggested in such marketing efforts that will generate no perceivable ROI. I am guessing that this is some kind of competition or race and I continue to wonder how doing competitive things is supposed to generate more collaboration.

Interdepartmental Collaboration continues to be a workplace oxymoron.

If someone wants to enlighten me about the ROI of these efforts shows itself, fine well and good. Until then, I will simply consider these kinds of events as #BadTeambuilding.

And h0w are we going to change organizational cultures and workplace environments if we keep doing things the same way?

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

He wonders, at age 68, if an event sponsor would allow him to play on a Pony Hop if he did not sign a waiver for any possible injury. There are now 5 generations of workers in many workplaces. Are us old people supposed to be excluded? Can we do this with most exec teams?

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

Poem on Performance Improvement and Training

For two dozen years, I have used a “strength building” illustration as step one to discuss how training is not always a good solution to performance improvement problems. It is the old Bob Mager, “If you put a gun to their head, can they do it?” kind of framework in that it separates a skillset from a motivation. Simply put, if people can do the job, they don’t need more training to do the job.

Training is a good thing if skills are deficient, but we often see new people demonstrate the skills as they are coached but then not demonstrate those same skills over time. Something else is happening and workplace systems and processes are often a good place to look for new Best Practices and ideas to improve motivation and teamwork.

So, while training is a GOOD thing, and often one of those reinforcers for workplace performance, it is not THE solution most of the time.

My suggestion is to step back from the wagon and change perspective. Ask people for ideas and listen to issues and opportunities. That is the nature of The Square Wheels Project.

So, here is a little ditty poem about those issues and opportunities. I hope you like it!

Poem on Training by Scott Simmerman for The Square Wheels project

Note that training WILL often generate a 2 or 3% improvement in performance since the wagon pushers WILL be a little stronger!
But maybe that time could have been better used for engagement…

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

2017 – A Year of Choices, Engagement and Innovation

We are at the cusp of a new year and this tends to be the time when people consider new possibilities and new thoughts on doing things differently. In that context, let me wish you a Happy Round Wheel New Year and hope that you can give your people the gift of engagement and workplace happiness.

Here, I am working up some new initiatives, and writing a Square Wheels novel around workplace innovation and implementation, one that uses the themes of involving and engaging people for their innovation ideas as well as building on Robin Speculand‘s upcoming book on excellence in execution.

My efforts will work on the bottoms-up side of motivating people for improvement while his focus is on strategy implementation from the tops down. Both will combine in the intrigue and challenge of implementing workplace change in a difficult environment, with the requisite Spectator Sheep continually voicing their opposition to anything new and the Mavericks looking to fight the systems and processes because they do not work smoothly.

The leverage point is that interface between Brad, the manager, and Paula, the consultant. Brad is frustrated, that typical motivator for change, and Paula has untried, simple, engaging approaches to involve and align work teams.

Wrapping it around two illustrations for this Happy Round Wheel New Year, it looks like this:

The Square Wheels Project New Year image by Scott SimmermanThe Square Wheels Project New Year image by Scott Simmerman

DO have fun out there, and DO step back from the wagon and ask for ideas. What you gain is priceless: the active involvement and teamwork of people focused on implementing their own workplace improvement ideas. Generating the intrinsic motivation for self-improvement and team innovation. Improving leadership and trust through increasing organizational alignment to shared missions and goals.

The Square Wheels Project New Year image by Scott Simmerman

Make 2017 about continuous continuous improvement, since the round wheels of today will become the Square Wheels of tomorrow.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

 

 

A Round Wheel Happy New Year!

We had a Christmas Day brunch at one of the finer hotels here in Greenville and, to put it simply, things did not roll very smoothly. There were any number of service quality issues from beginning to end, starting with a “10 minute wait” that was 35 minutes (we sat outside where it was nice and not in the stuffy crowded lobby) to the food quality / timeliness issues to having our table swept when we went back to the buffet (even the silverware and glassware and I had to re-serve our water because there was no one there…) and to having to wait 20 minutes to get the check.

Giving specific feedback to the restaurant manager generated a nice conversation with the General Manager /Partner of the property. I expected nothing and was simply sharing information, but he sent me an email a bit ago inviting me to another event. It was both unexpected and unnecessary — maybe we will followup and do it. But getting something for free was not part of my effort to share information to enable better performance.

Anyway, I wanted to cheer things up a little and since the Square Wheels image was something he and I discussed, I thought to do up a Happy New Year Poster.

A HAPPY NEW YEAR Square Wheels poster about people and performanceThe key point is that people know what they could choose to do differently or #morebetterfaster if they simply had a better sense of why it is important. It does not take much effort for a team of people to implement better solutions and improve how things work. The idea of stepping back from the wagon (and also ignoring the Spectator Sheep) is important to get the overall perspective to find and implement some new ideas.

If YOU have some Square Wheels issues around people and performance, visit The Square Wheels Project and pick up some simple facilitation skills along with some simple tools to use. The Round Wheel solutions already exist; it is about identifying issues and implementing solutions,

The Square Wheels Project is about facilitating engagment and improvement

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

Bad Teambuilding, Good Teambuilding

I continue to be struck by how much team bonding is confused with team building. The latter has impacts on organizational behavior and performance improvements and links to improving results while the former is about having fun and doing things to build camaraderie. The issue is that people expect things to change with more workplace friendliness, but with no changes in measurements or feedback or actual consequences (rewards and punishers), why would anyone expect anything to change?

And why is it that so many exercises that consultants would use for front-line or middle managers, they would not remotely consider doing with senior executives? Does that CEO or CFO or CTO really benefit by having some cooking class event, doing some pot-luck lunch or, as I recently saw in Wired magazine, really benefit from having the comedians from Second City teach them improv? Will those activities REALLY translate to anything improving?

It is so bad that I just set up #BadTeambuilding as a twitter hashtag and I plan on noting some things called “team building” that aren’t and don’t. Maybe I will be seen as a troll, but the operational idea is that we cannot expect change if awareness does not shift and some sort of real enlightenment occurs, right? It will be hard to ignore retweets with the #badteambuilding and it will surely generate some responses and reactions — and at age 68, I don’t have a lot of years left to leave a footprint, right?

Badteambuilding is a theme of perception by Scott Simmerman of The Square Wheels Project

I hope I have earned the right to comment, having delivered exercises for organizational improvement over the past 25 years and working in a global marketplace for ideas for impact. In addition to the blogging and presentations, I sell and support a number of team development exercises, with one of mine being used extensively by a network of consultants and pretty much generating rave reviews.

A survey among people who have purchased The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine teambuilding exercise, for example, generated feedback that anchored that the game as Most Excellent. And nearly all of them will confirm that the common team bonding fun “exercises” have little to do with improving the actual interdepartmental collaboration and alignment to shared visions that we can accomplish with the exercise. Most of our users are a highly experienced group, with 70% using 6 or more different team building exercises in their organizational development work.

You can download a full summary of results by clicking on the link below:
Dutchman Survey Results Summary

But it is amazing how many companies will choose to do something fun over something impactful, apparently feeling that since people are so pressured from working, that spending fun time at Dave and Busters or going go-kart racing will somehow make a difference. If that is true, I would love to see some actual data supporting that belief.

I am not a troll on things like this; it is just seeing that better alternatives to a lot of the choices being made about “doing some teambuilding” will not actually generate any results and actually set the stage for executives to believe that all teambuilding has no real impacts on results.

Here is Scott helping Mrs. Claus and the elves make improvements to Santa's wagon

My focus for years has been on people and performance, and everything I see says that we can improve teamwork and collaboration and that we can improve employee engagement and innovation and have all kinds of positive impacts on organizational results. We need to simply choose to make a difference and do something differently!

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

We believe that GOOD teambuilding can generate real change and improved results by making people more aware of their decision-making and their choices and collaborative behavior. Here are some additional thoughts and statistics from our survey of users about The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine:

We asked a really tough T/F question:

LDGM is the best exercise I know of to work with senior managers on issues of strategy, alignment, and organizational collaboration.”

Fully half (53%) said this was TRUE! (Only 9 people said this was False, which given the highly experienced and global nature of our users, is pretty fantastic. We are NOT the most expensive exercise out there, just apparently the best value!.)And comments were uniformly supportive of our design, packaging and pricing.

Another tough question and positive response was this one: 30 people (55%) responded that Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is “the best overall team building exercise I have used.” For such an experienced user-base, this was outstanding!

Fully 100% of users would recommend the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine game to others for purchase and use, with 63% saying they would recommend it to ANY trainer or consultant.

As to value, two-thirds of users (64%) strongly agreed that the purchased of the exercise represented an excellent value to their organizations and 11 merely agreed, with 5 people sharing a neutral response.

The exercise was designed to be useful for organizational development, alignment, leadership and teambuilding. It was designed for impact.

  • Fully 7 in 10 agreed or strongly agreed that the simulation was effective in generating observable, “desired changes in behavior after the session ended, back on the job.” One person disagreed.
  • 96% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that, “the exercise linked well to our issues of workplace collaboration and performance management” with two people being neutral.
  • As to, “representing the Best Value for a teambuilding exercise in the global marketplace,” 21 people strongly agreed and 16 others agreed of 52 registered responses, or 71% of our users.

Again, we framed that question up as a real test of perceived value and even the neutral responses were supportive! It seems we are doing pretty well out there, and no one would actually name an exercise they thought was better than ours.

We asked some tough questions and we got some great answers.

If you are looking for a real team building exercise, one that does the building a lot more than it focuses on “bonding” like so many other exercises in the marketplace, check out our simulation. It is powerful and yet inexpensive.

After all, fully three quarters of our users felt it represented a Best Value in the global marketplace of tools for organizational improvement and communications.

a team building simulation exercose

We think that companies can accomplish real teambuilding, if they focus on it and use good tools. And we stand 100% behind our tools,

For the FUN of It!

Monkeys, Management and Motivation – Simple Ideas

Ah, the Internet… And StumbleUpon. Blogs. And research on behavior. And Creative Genius. And themes of leadership and productivity and employee motivation.

I love it when it all comes together…

Way back in 2012, what seems like at least a decade ago, I was reminded of the monkey metaphor of William Onchen (HBR, originally in 1974!), who wrote about their management, care and feeding. Solid stuff.

Dan Rockwell, in his most excellent Leadership Freak blog, reminded me of some of that today. He talked around “whose monkey is it” and framed up the pronouns in a way to get you to pay more attention to what is being said. There are three different ways to listen to the discussion and the pronouns you use in discussing that little critter:

  1. ‘You’ – The monkey stays in their zoo. They own the issue. Responsibilities are theirs.
  2. ‘We’ – The monkey is a shared. “We will fix this.” Responsibilities are shared. Beware of adding unnecessary layers of complexity by sharing too many monkeys with team members.
  3. ‘I’ – The monkey moves to your cage. You own this issue. Responsibilities are yours.

And my curiosity caused me to click on a “Cognitive Science” link on StumbleUpon 3 years ago because it showed the following (copied with permission) research and metaphor.

article on managing monkeys by scott simmermanIn his article, the story about the situation and the behavior continues. In mine, I think you probably get where I am headed…

A key point is behavior and to consider how certain workplace behaviors get started and maintained.

The behavior of a group of monkeys is sustained by the organizational culture and the environment around it, and probably not even by any consequence system that still exists.I think that the behaviors generated years ago are often still in place and continuing to influence teamwork and collaboration and even best practices.

Jason Wells talks about the concept of  filiopietism, or the reverence of forebears or tradition carried to excess, but prefers another term: the tragic circle. (He moved his site but you can see his illustrations by clicking on this link The Lesson of the Monkeys )

And I agree. He links the concept to the behaviors of societies, and I think that the concept links even more directly to workgroups where there are extrinsic rewards and punishers for specific behaviors.

There are many such practices in workgroups that get carried on long after the original event. Techs at a car dealership client of mine would all yell, “What?” when one of them would yell out, “Hey, Stupid!”My guess is that a manager, once upon a time, was calling for one of them and yelled out the phrase and it just got established as a little “reminder ritual” for all of them (including the actual good-guy manager!!).

Most people in most workplaces are UN-Engaged. Why? You can’t know precisely, even when you look at it from all different kinds of angles. There are all kinds of local reasons. My take on it is that dis-engagement is being caused by something, maybe something that is inadvertent, but still a causal factor acting in the environment. It might be something as simple as “a banana” — the issue of some loss of trust or some shared negative corporate memory. And until we address the root cause, it will continue. Nothing will improve and little will change over time. The monkeys will simply continue to sit there…

uncontrolled impacts of extrinsic rewardsSure, one “Senior Corporate Leadership Answer” to the Monkey Problem is to get all NEW monkeys and start all over but that is a costly and difficult solution to implement. And some of the thinking may still carry over during that transition. Some organizations actually do that, moving from one place to another to shake things up and get new people.

But a more better simple alternative is to engage them (the people participants) in some discussions about what and why and look for new alternatives that can be implemented or problems that can be addressed that simply reinforce the situation at hand. So, “Yes, we have no bananas” (audio – vocal starts at 1:10, from 1923 (history) ), but we do have people who have a level of commitment to performing.

We need to do some serious Dis-Un-Engagement in the workplace, working with teams to identify the things that are getting in the way of people being engaged and actively removing them from the situation. Doing the precise same things, introducing one new monkey after another, will not make any difference.

Our new facilitation training for supervisors shares a straightforward approach for dealing with such issues and opportunities. You can see our approach, which uses my metaphor for Square Wheels at:

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance ManaagementThe tool is focused on discussing issues and opportunities, and the approach is to generate open discussion of the things that could work better, the issues of the culture and visions, and the generation and implementation of better ideas. It focuses on asking and listening and on generating ownership involvement,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

Are Managers simply BAD or is it the Workplace

This will be a short post, with a link to a solid article and one illustration.

Gallup had an article that is depressing: www.gallup.com/businessjournal/200108/damage-inflicted-poor-managers.aspx

It is about the DAMAGE caused by bad managers. It is a short but hard read, saying in part:

Managers who don’t know how to meet the engagement needs of their team become a barrier to employee, team and company performance.

And a disturbingly high percentage of managers around the world are not meeting the needs of their employees. Actively disengaged employees (24%) outnumber engaged employees (13%) by nearly 2-to-1, according to Gallup — implying that at the global level, work is more often a source of frustration than fulfillment.

If work looks like this, which it seems to, can’t we actually DO SOMETHING to change the rope? Can’t we make things more involving and engaging by simply asking people for their ideas for improvement?

The Square Wheels Project image on perception by Scott Simmerman

That is what we are trying to teach with The Square Wheels Project: a simple facilitation process to allow supervisors to ask for ideas for improvement.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

Santa’s Square Wheels Performance Improvement Poem

A special Holidays greeting to you with the hope that an illustrated “Getting Santa Rolling” poem might add a touch of fun to your days.

Each year at this time, my little company sends out a seasonal greeting anchoring to either our Square Wheels illustrations around engaging people in making improvements or to our Lost Dutchman game about collaboration and teamwork. This year, it’s the Square Wheels theme that is the poem’s focus since after 25 years of using original line art we’ve transitioned to using LEGO images for a more playful representation of, “How most organizations really work.”

Since other mailings have gone out to my contacts in LinkedIn and to our subscribers, apologies if you get this twice. We would simply like to wish you the best for a great year ahead and for your having some positive impacts on the people around you. Here is what we had to say about getting Santa rolling this year:

A santa square Wheels poem

Getting Santa Rolling….
 Santa One
Things look too bumpy for Santa, his Elves and Reindeer!
How they’ll get flying with those Square Wheels isn’t clear.
Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott SimmermanSanta, ask your teams to stop & look in their “wagon”
As solutions exist there that’ll keep it from draggin’.Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott Simmerman

Then the Elves and Reindeer could quite easily share
Their ideas for how things could work better there.

Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott SimmermanBy Asking and Listening you’ll most surely generate
Engagement and motivation leading them to innovate!

Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott Simmerman
Their Round Wheel thinking will give them insight
into how to implement to make things quite right.
 Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott Simmerman
Then all will gleefully rejoice as Christmas time arrives
Knowing their Round Wheel ideas got Santa in the skies!
Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott Simmerman
Those Square Wheels exist everywhere, you’ll see,
But the Round Wheels are reachable—ab-so-lute-ly!
Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott Simmerman
Managers who involve workers with positive intent
Offer everyone involved a gift of empowerment!
Santa Performance Poem illustration in LEGO by Scott Simmerman

“Getting Santa Rolling” aligns with our mission to support Supervisors, Managers and Leaders with simple tools for facilitating improvements leading to a happier and better workplace.

If you’re interested in strengthening your facilitation skills, you can do that easily through online learning and support by joining The Square Wheels Project where you’ll receive self-paced learning and materials for making a positive difference in your workplace. Check it out here:

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

WHAM! The Square Wheels Guy sees a Round Wheel

I shared this story with a couple of associates last night and both said I should blog about it. The situation is where some guy (me) who deals in Square Wheels and Round Wheels finally makes an improvement because he finally sees something as a Square Wheel, something operating that way for almost a year. Seriously…

My house has one room set up as an image production area and we got some green screen cloth and used a 5 foot by 3 foot table as the base on which to set up our various Square Wheels scenarios and images. We have good lighting sources and a tripod for using my iPhone to take pictures. We even have a remote control so we can keep the camera still while we do some stop-motion movies. (We will start publishing some animations in January – an amazing fun way to be creative and get some key learning points across.)

Santa flying with elves watching and Round Wheels on the Square Wheel sled

Anyway, I thought that we had production down to what was a science. Simple set up, hit some light switches and get out the iPhone, with auto upload to the cloud and downloading to my computers. Neat!

But there were small problems. In some shots where we had wider images, like with Santa and the reindeer plus some elves at the back, we were getting the sides of the screen to come into view at the back. That resulted in me having to move LEGO more toward the back to control the angles and image quality.

On Thursday, Joan and I were shooting Santa shots (new poem will be published) and I sat there and heard voices in my head saying, “Why don’t we rotate the table so that it changes from 3′ wide and 5′ long to being a more usable 5′ wide and 3′ long?”

Why was it 3 x 5? Because the table fit neatly along the 5 foot wall to the left and we had a light box sitting on the table when we first started. But then we moved the table away from the wall when we went from shooting within the box to a back-screen open arrangement. We kept changing backgrounds, raised the height of the table and did other things but we never bothered to rotate the table. It worked as it was, but it did not work smoothly. It took 5 minutes to make a really useful fix…

My own Square Wheels metaphor winds up whacking me in the side of the head. A better solution has been there for MONTHS, but I simply could not SEE it because I was used to the way it was working, Neither Chris nor Joan saw it either, and Chris helped me with all the initial set up and has taken half the pictures.

Square Wheels Image production facility The Square Wheels Project

The message and key learning point is simple:

The Round Wheels are already in the wagon.

Improvement often just requires us to stop, step back, and LOOK for ideas to make things better, rather than simply doing the same thing over and over and somehow expecting better results.

I do TRY to live my own metaphor and look for those Round Wheels.
But apparently, “not always,”

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

Nothing Made Sense – Charter Spectrum Customer Service

I was not intending to blog again today. But this is insane! And I have to vent about customer service — emphasizing the cuss part of that more than the service part, of course.

(Addendum – Read what I added to the bottom because the circus clowns called Charter Spectrum continue to shock and amaze… New text will be in purple.)

Addendum to the addendum – Amber was an outstanding customer service rep who handled the followup call to install the TV nicely. But she also added $10 to the bill because of the SC taxes and stuff, something that I asked specifically about with Shannon, the rep mentioned below — who said the total would be $88. Paying $1000+ a year for TV and internet DOES put all this out of the reach of many in our society, too. Sad that everything has to be for-profit in the US. Estonia has free internet for its people…

Let me lead with Joseph Heller’s quote, “Nothing made sense and neither did anything else.”

Charter Spectrum Service Quality Image

The hour begins with my cellphone ringing. An unknown 877 number. I answer. Long pause and a guy comes on to tell me that my Charter Spectrum account is overdue and they are going to turn off my cable service. I actually have a bill on my desk and was going to call them about this, but calling is always an interesting Square Wheels process given their “automated customer calling direction systems” are so user unfriendly, so good they called me.

He tells me that $48 is overdue.

I ask him if this account was not already set up for Auto-Pay, the automatic deduction from my credit card. Oops. It is!! It has been set up to be paid automatically.

And, it is actually going to automatically pay tomorrow — and it was set up over 6 weeks ago. (Actually, it was set up in October but they screwed it up and needed to set it up again.) “So,” I ask him, “what do we do right now?” He says no action is needed. (Ha! Keep reading!)

Charter (now trying to operate as Spectrum because the name Charter carries so much negative service quality baggage, I guess. Note that I have blogged before and done illustrations to complain about them!!) also sent me a letter that my promotional rate on my internet was going up from $40 to $60. So, While Charter on my mind, I called them.

For $27 more, I can add a DVR and their TV service. I talk about this with Shannon. There is also a $37 service call fee that I did get her to mention. So, I ask her to waive that and she looks at her current promotional offerings and then tells me that because my account is (still) being dunned even though she sees that it IS set to auto-pay tomorrow, I will need to call them back!!!

I am also smart enough to think to ask WHEN I should call, because they will not handle anything until auto-pay happens and the account is reset. I HAVE TO CALL THEM AGAIN, go through the whole automated menu, get another rep, explain all the stuff again, etc. They do NOT have my main phone number listed on this account so I have to give all the address info, etc. Seriously, I ask. Yes, she says.

(This is one of those situations where artificial intelligence and robotics are most certainly more capable than some human being trying to operate within a “customer service billing system” that totally sucks. A somewhat intelligent robot with systems access should do this easily — they will not allow their people to do intelligent things, apparently throughout history given Charter’s sterling reputation for absolutely horrible customer service.)

So, I made a note to call them tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully one call. Hopefully some installer who knows what he is doing.

And then, maybe the equipment will work reliably. They replaced 4 or 5 other DVRs over the course of a year the last time I had that service.

Charter Spectrum Customer Service. Can four words be considered an oxymoron? And why do we give them a monopoly over this service? Why isn’t the internet run by the government and free to all citizens like it is in so many other developed countries? Estonia has free internet, for god’s sake…

The Square Wheels are everywhere. Some companies are really good with their customer service and their service quality management systems. But Charter / Spectrum is a monopoly and they got you because the government allows them to get you. Pretty awful.

And something even training cannot improve, since the issues are systemic to how they choose to run their business. This is one company where I look forward to artificial intelligence and smart robotics replacing how they do the job now.

Addendum – Well, I have not made that second call to Customer Service yet today to add the TV and see if they will waive that installation fee. It will be interesting.

But these clowns DID call me again with their call director 877-number, with me answering and then waiting while they decided to connect me to someone after 4 or 5 interminable seconds.

That clown representative then told me that auto-pay was scheduled for today, and nothing else, like that was good customer service.

I relayed some recent customer history and some quite candid thoughts about their service quality (using the CUSStomer Service language they so deserve) and actually asked him about the actual benefit to this call for me, as in the fact that I had a similar call from them 24 hours before (see above for details!).

But I DID ask to be transferred to Customer Service and they put me, not directly to a service person, but back into their Call Director, which actually did recognize my phone number and which then automatically gave me my account information, including the balances and past due amounts that Charter Spectrum is simply so fond of sharing.

I eventually got a representative (not representing me but representing them), and he did NOT get the phone recognition so I needed to give him all the account verification information (address and secret  security word and all that) AGAIN.

Since they had my cell phone in my account, I wanted them to change that to my landline so that when I call from my desk again later today, it would recognize who I am (maybe). We will see if that works when I call them again later this afternoon.

HOW can any company work so hard to be so absolutely awful. Their systems and processes can so easily be replaced by artificial intelligence, which I hope happens soon to them. They also wanted me to take a customer service survey after my call. It would be about the rep, of course, and not the company because they do not seem to be very focused on the customer experience overall and only want a hammer to hold over the head of their people. At least that is how it appears.

The Clowns. That is what they should have renamed the company,
Clown Cable Systems.

And, just imagine them operating with an, “If we suck, it’s FREE!” kind of service quality guarantee like many companies do these days. Just imagine…

(Installation call set up – scheduled for 20 hours after today’s call to purchase the TV / DVR. I also asked for a NEW DVR box, since the refurbished ones of the past each seem to last about 2 months before their catastrophic failure – 5 replacements in one year last time I have Charter TV… Also funny is that the call goes into Spectrum, but completing the rep service quality survey gets a thank you from “Charter” and not Spectrum.)

Lastly, I am framing up a novel about the implementation of AI and robotics and the human factors involved in implementation and the thought I just had was that my main character, Brad, will get a HUGE insight into something he can do differently as he goes through an installation experience like mine with SPECTUM Cable Clowns, something that he can see he needs to do differently to impact his people and performance issues…  Not quite sure what it IS yet, but that will be the catalytic moment for a key insight… Got an idea? Share it in the comments.

 

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

 

 

Monday Morning Square Wheels and other thoughts

Here is our new framework for considering how things really seem to work in most organizations, this one done as a paradoxical joke that might take a second. It is also something for consideration about the perception of reality:

Square Wheels LEGO one-liner by Scott Simmerman of The Square Wheels Project

 

Here are two of my most useful quotes:

Nothing made sense, and neither did everything else. 
     (Joseph Heller, from his book “Closing Time,“ (1994) )

It is not possible to awaken someone who is pretending to be asleep.
(Navajo proverb).

1callosamia————

Caterpillars can fly, if they just lighten up. Thus, be the caterpillar or the butterfly, but always watch out for the birds and expect changes because we go through cycles of existence. 

If you can’t be kind to others, at least have the decency to be vague.

Indecision is a key to flexibility.
A decision made is an opportunity for flexibility missed.
Thus, flexibility is a key to indecision.

“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.” — Marcel Proust

“In Paris, they simply stared when I spoke to them in French. I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their language.”  
– Mark Twain

Some thoughts on Flying:
Keep thy airspeed up, lest the earth come from below and smite thee.

Basic Flying Rules:

  1.  Try to stay in the middle of the air.
  2.  Do not go near the edges of it. (The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance of ground, buildings, sea, trees and interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly there.)
  3.  Strive to keep the number of successful landings made equal to the number of take-offs you’ve made.

If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again, it was probably worth it. And borrow money from pessimists, since they do not expect you to pay it back.

Some managers choose to be rock solid in their commitment to flexibility. Some drink from the fountain of knowledge, others just gargle. 

“That’s like asking the vegetables how to design a refrigerator.” (An actual quote I heard a company president make when asked about the idea of employee involvement. Really!)

 

The dome on Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, conceals a billiards room. Billiards were illegal in Virginia when Jefferson lived…

The term “devil’s advocate” comes from the Roman Catholic church. When 20 of the church’s most important convene in deciding if someone should be sainted, a devil’s advocate is always appointed to give an alternative view.

Management in some companies reminds me of 5,000 ants on a log floating down the river with each ant pretending they are steering and that they know where they are going. But it is not their fault, it is simply the result of their perceptions about how things work.

Scott Simmerman's Square Wheels Project for Performance Manaagement

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Check out The Square Wheels Project, our LMS for teaching Square Wheels facilitation skills to supervisors and managers.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

What is Negative Reinforcement, a Square Wheels Innovation Framework

The key point here is that removing Square Wheels has widespread, natural systemic reinforcing impacts for improving organizational results. It is a direct and simple way to impact results, everywhere.

I am a behaviorist from way back, getting one of those doctorate thingies and playing with “behavioral engineering” back in the late 70s and working with people like Tom Gilbert and Ed Feeney and Ken Junkins. The main approach was to identify critically leveraged, high-impact behaviors and then set up mechanisms to implement changes systemically, to give performers self-reinforcing feedback that enables performance improvement. It was an interesting and effective approach that certainly has applications today in so many situations. (More on feedback here)

Feedback is all about alignment and engagement, since it focuses on giving people the information they need to be high performers. It focuses on best practices and things that can be improved with focus.

We see a LOT of this in many of the gamification approaches to accelerated learning and training in general.

In reading an excellent whitepaper on gamification in general, there was some confusion in using the term “negative reinforcement” that I thought might be useful for a blog, since it does share some different enlightening information. I even did an illustration that anchors it and shows why it would have a positive impact.

Negative reinforcement is commonly used as an alternative phrase meaning punishment.

They are NOT the same. There are three things here:

  1. Positive reinforcement works when some behavior occurs and it results in a positive outcome or response, positive from the viewpoint of the individual or the team. Positive reinforcement increases the likelihood of that behavior occurring in the future.
  2. Punishment works when some behavior occurs and a negative outcome or response occurs. Punishment reduces the likelihood of that behavior occurring in the future. It is a negative outcome.
  3. Negative reinforcement works when some behavior occurs and it results in the removal of some aversive stimulus of some kind. The removal, contingent on the behavior, causes an INCREASE in the behavior. It is a positive outcome.

There are a lot of issues involved in any stimulus / response situations. There are intrinsic rewards and extrinsic rewards and contingent and non-contingent rewards and a whole lot of “past experience” operating to determine impacts. Perceived (non-actual) links between stimulus and response can generate superstitious behaviors (article here) such as blowing on dice or wearing lucky hats.

Intrinsic rewards are personal to people while extrinsic ones (like money) are added and can generate all sorts of unpredicted impacts. (more on extrinsic rewards here and here ). Candidly, I do NOT like extrinsic rewards, since most set up competition and generate both winners as well as losers. Many people (as many as 40%) have also learned that they never win, so why even try.

So, why does generating a discussion about Square Wheels® work so well to generate motivation and engagement? Why is it so bombproof as a tool for organizational development and innovation? Because it works something like this:

Negative Reinforcement and Square Wheels and intrinsic motivation

By removing some Square Wheels, the things that work but do not work smoothly, and replacing them with Round Wheels, you do the workers the favor of helping them remove some of the aversive aspects of their work and workplace. This increases the likelihood they will repeat the behaviors, both individually and collectively. You build teamwork, alignment, and collaboration and you improve communications and you get positive actions like these:

Intrinsic Motivation, Square Wheels and LEGO by Scott Simmerman

You get to go #morebetterfaster.

tswp-logo-for-chris-for-newsletter-2

 

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group

 

 

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